The Breakup 3.0: Relationship Behavior on Tinder
When looking at how people date and have relationships through different types of media, it is especially important to look at the first step: how they meet. With the rapid advances in technology it is necessary to understand the different types of media created specifically to meet new people. Tinder is one of the most well-known and popular apps when it comes to meeting new people. Originally known as a “hook-up” app, Tinder has changed in its use the more people used it, and that drastic change is what makes it such a complicated media to use. Since people hold different media ideologies and idioms of practice, it can cause issues when trying to meet with this app. The structure of the medium, how it relates to other media (remediation), as well as the second order information gathered by the site can all have an effect on how people use it and interact with each other through it. Other issues can arise with the extremely public nature of the site and what implications that has for its users. The Breakup 2.0 was a good start in looking at relationships through media, but Facebook is no longer the main media used, and apps like Tinder are currently one of the most popular in regards to meeting new people.
What is Tinder?
Originally known as a hook up app, Tinder is now used for a variety of other reasons. Whether someone is looking for a one night stand, a relationship, or is on it for pure entertainment with no intent to actually meet anyone, there are hundreds of potential suitors on Tinder. The general idea of Tinder is that you make a small biography and add pictures of yourself. After that, you put in stipulations: what gender you are interested in, the age range, as well as the location you want to meet people in. After that, you can swipe either left or right on the biographies that show up on the app, left meaning you are not interested and right meaning you would like to match with them. If you swipe right on someone and they also swipe right on you, you both get notified that you matched and you then have the opportunity to message one another. What happens after that, though, is largely based on what intent you have for the app.
Media Ideologies and Idioms of Practice
Since Tinder was originally a hook up app, the media ideology many people have about it are based around its original purpose. According to Ilana Gershon (2010) in The Breakup 2.0, “Media ideologies are a set of beliefs about communicative technology with which users and designers explain perceived media structure and meaning” (p. 3). Ultimately, what people think about the media is what will shape the way they will use it (Gershon, 2010, p. 3). Because it is an app, its convenience and easy-to-use structure contribute to that ideology. In comparison to other dating sites, which are much more involved in the questions you have to answer and the way you interact with people, Tinder is much easier to use since all you have to do is fill out a quick bio and swipe right or left. Despite this original use, the idioms of practice have shifted the more people used it and actually met people who they can make lasting relationships with.
After talking to three of my peers, they all have different idioms of practice on this app. According to Gershon (2010), idioms of practice are how people figure out how to use different media by asking advice and sharing stories with one another (p. 6). While they all knew about the media ideology of it being a hook up app, all of their idioms of practice have shifted in a different direction based on their experience and the experience of their friends on the app. For example, a woman in her mid-twenties, who I will refer to as Whinny, originally got the app because she was moving to a new city, had just broken up with her boyfriend, and wanted to see what kind of people she was going to encounter in the next stage of her life. Whinny knew about the original purpose of the app, and she went into it with the thought that nothing would probably come out of it. She did not expect a hook up, let alone a relationship. She met the guy that she is still dating on this app, and they have been together for 2 years now and are talking about getting engaged. Even though she started without any intentions with the app, she did find a meaningful relationship through it.
This is much different than the experience a woman I will refer to as Red had with this app. Red has met three different guys through the app. She originally got Tinder because she wanted to meet people and date. She did not want it for a hook up app, but despite that it could be argued that that is what she is using it for. She has physically met 3 of the many guys she has matched with, one as soon as 1 day after matching on Tinder and the longest being a week before meeting. She has had sex with all of these guys, and was not in a relationship with any of them. She never really left the talking stage with any of them. Even though she would like to use this app for dating, that is not really how things are working out for her.
There is another option in using this app, which a woman I will refer to as Belle outlines perfectly. Belle got the app for purely entertainment purposes. She has matched and messaged with a couple guys, but she does not have any intentions of actually meeting anyone. She said she likes using the app because it is a confidence boost when she matches with someone, and it is entertaining to look through all of the biographies of the guys that show up.
The biggest issue that Red faced on this app is when people do not share her same idiom of practice. Because her goal is to use this for dating, she always has to ask the guys what their intentions are before deciding whether to continue talking to them or not. According to an article on Business Insider written by Joshua Barrie (2015), there are many uses of Tinder that are extremely different than the typical hook up or relationship. For example, using it as “something to do on the commute” or using it to “find out more about the area you live in” are things you should know before continuing to talk to someone (p. 1). Making sure that someone shares the same idiom of practice as you before continuing to talk to them is extremely important. Even if they are not looking for hook ups, if you are looking for a relationship and they are just using for entertainment on their ride to work that can cause future issues if you match with them. Other options of using Tinder are outlined by Blackout_B on Total Sorority Move (2016) which includes “to figure out how hot you are”, “to practice small talk for when it really matters”, “to let your inner judgmental bitch free”, “to find your type”, “to feel great about yourself”, “to entertain yourself via a drinking game”, and lastly “to find your future hubby” (p. 1). Clearly there are many reasons people are on Tinder, and if their reasons do not match up with your reasons, it can cause many problems if you actually match.
Structure of the Medium
The structure of Tinder is important to understand when looking at how different people use it for different reasons. Because it is an app on your phone, it is virtually usable anywhere. Because of its convenience and casual nature, it is easy to just get on your phone and scroll through Tinder with or without any real intention of matching with someone. According to an article on Vanity Fair by Nancy Jo Sales (2015), “you could talk to two or three girls at a bar and pick the best one, or you can swipe a couple hundred people a day—the sample size is so much larger” (p. 1). Because of the condensed dating pool, it is extremely easy to base who you would like to date, or just sleep with, based on a couple pictures and a witty quote in their biography. The app is much easier than going to a bar and trying to pick up a date, or hook up, there.
The process of swiping on Tinder is a feature that is unique to this app. How this works is that when a picture and a bio come up on your screen of someone that matches the stipulations you set, you have a couple options. Swiping to the left means you are uninterested and you will move onto the next picture and bio. Swiping right means you “like” this person and it opens the possibility of matching with them. If the person you swiped right on swipes right on you, too, you two are then matched. Since the structure of this medium is different than traditional dating sites, it can cause confusion at first. Talking to Belle, she mentioned problems she had with using the app when she first downloaded it. She was telling me that she kept forgetting which direction to swipe. Since you usually swipe left on your phone to scroll through pictures, or whatnot, it confused her to swipe the other way. Because of this, it caused her to move past some people she may have been interested in. She caught on pretty quickly, but this is a good example of how the structure of the media is unique to this app.
Because of the online format, it is also easy to pretend to be someone who you’re not. Tinder is connected to your Facebook, so besides making a fake Facebook profile it would be difficult to completely change your identity on Tinder. Either way, though, it is still easy to put pictures up and information in your bio that is not completely truthful as to who you are. Another fear with Tinder is the presence of chat bots that are trying to trick you into downloading a virus or sell you something. According to an article on Lifehacker by Patrick Allan (2016), there are some red flags that a Tinder profile is fake. Those red flags include missing information in the bio, having only one photo, replying to your message super-fast, trying to move the conversation off of Tinder right away, and generally seeming too good to be true (p. 1). Because of the structure of the medium, it is important to look at the other risks involved in the online setting other than those directly associated with the people you could be matching with. Obviously meeting someone in a bar does not pose these same types of risks that are only here in an online environment.
Remediation is explained by Gershon (2010) as how people’s ideas and uses of recently introduced media need to be analyzed along their uses of older media (p. 93). Even though Tinder is useful for meeting new people, it is only the initial form of media used. After matching and messaging on Tinder, if the two people are interested in continuing to communicate, they will most likely move to another form of media. For example, Red moves from messaging on Tinder to Snapchat and then eventually to texting. She goes to Snapchat first to make sure that they are who they say they are. Once she is convinced they are being truthful, she will then move to texting and sometimes Facetiming. Whinny, on the other hand, messaged her now boyfriend for a little bit then moved straight to texting. They also Facetimed before meeting. Due to the basic nature of Tinder, it is made only for the initial meeting and initial conversation. Whinny and Red both moved quickly to another media, but Belle explained the messaging process to me a little better. She explained that Tinder messaging is almost formatted exactly like texting, except the fact that it is through Tinder. She explained to me that she would want to message on Tinder for at least a month before moving to another form of media just because she is extra cautious about giving out her other personal information.
The problem with that, though, is that Tinder is connected to Facebook. I mentioned this earlier but this is a good example of how connecting different forms of media is seen as convenient, almost necessary, and in this case unavoidable. According to an article on Appamatix written by Trevor (2016), “the theory is that if your comments or other online actions are somehow connected to a real-world, real-name presence of you, this will remind you to be a human being” (p. 1). Ultimately this is a good idea, but the problem arises when you do not want your private dating, or hook up, life advertised on your Facebook. Now there are ways to disconnect your Tinder from your Facebook, but before this connection was seen as a plus by many because of convenience. Since they were both connected, it made it easy to update Facebook and it would automatically update Tinder (Trevor, 2016, p.1). This connection of social media is extremely important because of the nature of the fact that these people you are matching with are most likely strangers. It is important to be cautious and to make sure people are who they say they are by looking through their other various social media. These connections take at least a little bit of the risk out of online dating, or hooking up, in this setting.
Another important aspect of Tinder is why people use this instead of other traditional dating sites. Talking to Whinny, she chose to use Tinder because she felt it was what people her age were using at the time, it was free, and there were no crazy long questionnaires to fill out. It also has a lot to do with the factors of convenience that I mentioned earlier. According to an article on the Huffington Post written by Antonio Borrello (2016), “the app is simple, easy on the eye and feels like a game” (p. 1). Compared to the lengthy surveys and, a lot of the time, monthly payments associated with other dating websites, Tinder is an attractive option to those not so serious about finding their perfect match. Typically people willing to pay for dating websites are much more serious about finding someone, and maybe go into it with more expectations of finding someone. Tinder, on the other hand, takes off the pressure of having to find someone because you do not know exactly why people are on it. They could very well be there for a relationship, but they could also be there for entertainment or a casual hook up. The casual nature of this app can lead to other issues within a relationship after you are already dating, though. The second order information associated with having the app leads to many questions about how to go about using or deleting the app after getting into a relationship.
Second Order Information
Second order information is the information that is not actually said, but rather the background knowledge of a situation and how it is interpreted (Gershon, 2010, p. 123). There are many ways to interpret why someone has this app, and just because someone has it on their phone does not mean they are actively using it. This becomes especially complicated when you are talking to someone you met on Tinder. Do you continue to swipe through the app even though you are talking to someone at the moment? According to Red, she stops actively using Tinder when she is talking to a guy. She does not delete it from her phone, but rather just stays off of it and focuses on the one guy she is talking to. And when she breaks up with them, she waits a couple days before actively using Tinder again. Others, though, may not share this same practice. For those who use Tinder as a confidence boost or for entertainment, they may continue to use the app even after they are in a relationship with someone else. This leads to the type of second order information that can lead someone to believe they are being cheated on. The question would be whether they are using Tinder to keep a backup person available if the one they are with now does not work out, or are they simply addicted to the “game” of it and are not actually looking for another partner? These questions are obviously answered on a case by case basis, but this opens up the question of what kind of second order information is present simply by being on the app.
Another question I have is if swiping right and matching with someone is considered a promise to either talk or hook up? Again, this is case by case, but it would be problematic if you matched with someone just looking to see if a relationship would be possible, but they are expecting sex because of the match. For some, the second order information associated with matching could mean they are automatically promised some sort of relationship, sexual or not. Sales (2015) from Vanity Fair makes a good point when she outlines a scenario of a guy on Tinder. “[The guy] always make a point of disclosing I’m not looking for anything serious. I just wanna hang out, be friends, see what happens… I think to an extent it is, like, sinister… ‘cause I know that the average girl will think that there’s a chance that she can turn the tables. If I were like, Hey, I just wanna bone, very few people would want to meet up with you” (p.1). This scenario actually seems like a very common situation. Guys who are looking for just hook ups on Tinder cannot outright say that they just want sex because it is uncommon that a girl would be okay with them being that outright in their intentions. I cannot speak for all girls here, but I know I am the type of person who would not go for that. Now if someone said something along the lines of the first portion of the quote, just having the possibility of something more out of the meeting might be enough to make me go for it. As far as second order information goes, this is something to keep in mind. It is important to realize that people may be hiding their true desires of a hook up with language similar to this, and they may be expecting you to see through that and realize a hook up is all the further they are wanting to go. There is a blurry line of the second order information associated with Tinder, and it varies by person to person.
The Public Versus What is Made Public
There is a difference between a public, and what is made public. The public would be everyone else who has the app, while what is made public is all of the information you put on the app. Tinder is ultimately a very public app. Anyone on the app could see your profile if you fit into the stipulations they set for themselves. Anything on your profile is public, and unless your Facebook profile is set on private, it is very possible people could find you on Facebook just from your name and picture. The only thing that would be private on Tinder is private messages you have with people you match with. This can become problematic since your Facebook is connected to your Tinder. If you use Facebook mainly for work and family, there is a good chance you do not want your private dating life to be advertised on Facebook. This is one of the downsides of having these types of media connected. According to Trevor (2016) on Appamatix, “Tinder doesn’t publish anything on your Facebook profile but they still reveal if you’re friends with potential matches, they grab all your friends and profile photos” (p. 1). So even though it does not post updates about your matches on Facebook, it still may be too much public information available for some to be comfortable.
I had asked Belle if her Tinder was connected to her Facebook. She was unaware that it could potentially be, but with research I have done it seems to be that the newer updates of Tinder did away with having to connect through Facebook. Even though Belle’s was not connected, she voiced concerns of the fact that it might be. She almost panicked when I asked her the question because she did not want her friends and family on Facebook to know she was on Tinder. Even though she uses the app, the app being made public on her other forms of social media was unwanted. It seems that she wants what happens on Tinder to stay on Tinder, and she does not want any of it made public elsewhere.
Tinder is one of the most popular apps used to meet new people, and for good reason. The casual nature and convenience of the app gives it a variety of uses, but that can cause problems when other users have differing media ideologies and idioms of practice. Along with that, the structure of the medium, how it relates to other media (remediation), the second order information associated with it, as well as the public nature of the app are all things to keep in mind when using the app. There is a reason Tinder is so popular and continues to be, and I believe that has a lot to do with the many uses of the app and its relation to other media. Initially meeting someone is arguably the most important step in starting relationships, and meeting someone on Tinder just opens up a door full of possibilities and potential problems when attempting a relationship with someone. In this day in age, media plays a huge role in almost everyone’s life, and it is important to understand the role it plays in relationships when you use apps like Tinder in order to meet new people.
Allan, Patrick. (2016). How to Tell If a Tinder Profile Is Fake. Lifehacker. http://lifehacker.com/how-to-tell-if-a-tinder-profile-is-fake-1772999305.
Barrie, Joshua. (2015). My long-term girlfriend and I have found a totally new way to use Tinder. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/alternative-uses-for-tinder-2015-2.
Belle. Personal Interview. 9 December 2016.
Blackout_B. (2016). 7 Uses For Tinder Other Than Finding Your Next Hookup. Total Sorority Move. http://totalsororitymove.com/7-uses-for-tinder-other-than-finding-your-next-hookup/.
Borrello, Antonio. (2015). The Shocking Truth About Tinder; It’s More Than Just a Hook-Up App! The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/antonio-borrello-phd/the-shocking-truth-about-_7_b_8011462.html.
Gershon, Ilana. (2010). The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media. Cornell University Press.
Red. Personal Interview. 9 December 2016.
Sales, Nancy Jo. (2015). Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”. Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/08/tinder-hook-up-culture-end-of-dating.
Trevor. (2016). How to Use Tinder Without Facebook. Appamatix. http://appamatix.com/use-tinder-without-facebook/.
Whinny. Personal Interview. 9 December 2016.